Names & Faces of the Brazos Valley: Judge Tommy Munoz, Serving With Honor

By: Sylvia Villarreal Email
By: Sylvia Villarreal Email

Brazos County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 2, Place 2, Judge, Tommy Munoz grew up on the West side of Bryan and remembers living a simple life and recalls how the simplest pleasures brought him and his friends happiness.

Judge Munoz fondly remembers walking to school with his friends and didn't think twice that some of his classmates went to school barefoot. All he knew was that he was happy and everybody got along. During those times, Tommy recognized the importance of a good education and applied himself in school. After graduating from high school, he joined the military and now he holds one of Brazos County's leadership positions, elected by the people of Bryan.

Judge Munoz says, "The greatest compliment that I get is that people feel I'm doing a good job and that I've affected people's lives. Hopefully, I'm trying to make a difference in peoples lives.

From behind this bench, Judge Tommy Munoz has presided over case after case and the decisions he makes everyday while sitting in his chair, those decisions really do impact and affect the lives of those who stand before him.

Those who know Judge Munoz know he's organized, disciplined, motivated and each time he enters into his courtroom he's armed himself with the knowledge he needs to make wise decisions. While some of his rulings may seem harsh to some, Judge Munoz stands firm and enforces his decisions because he knows in the end, those standing before him will benefit from his actions and as a judge, he's truly concerned about those who appear before him.

"The youth of today, I'm concerned about them, says Munoz. "You know, the good majority of cases that I hear are some people say, they're truancy cases, but they're actually called failure to attend school cases, they're Class C Misdemeanors."

With Judge Munoz seeing firsthand the number of truancy cases coming into his court constantly increasing, he decided something needed to be done to prevent this growing problem that would on a long term basis cripple the youth of Brazos County.

"We're looking at adding an electronic monitor probably starting in October or November to keep track of some of these students. That way, we know that they need to be in school not out breaking into homes or being in drug infested areas."

But truancy cases aren't the only types of cases that come through Judge Munoz's court, he also hears many alcohol related cases and the way he deals with those only reinforces his dedication and commitment to the area's youth.

Munoz says, "What I do here in my court for a minor in possession of alcohol is have them see a video and that's a requirement I've established here and the video is pretty harsh video and it gives really a sense of people as to what could happen to them. It's a situation where there's a group of kids that are drinking. Then they go out , one of them gets in a car and drives and in the middle of the night, the parents get awoke that their sons gotten killed and they take them to the morgue. These are realistic things that could happen and I want to make sure that we get the attention of some of these young folks."

Even though Judge Munoz puts his heart and soul into his job and is always thinking of new and innovative ways he can positively influence and get his messages across to the youngsters who come into his office and step into his court, he's also a realist.

"Even though, if I can't get ten or twelve or thirty, as long as I get one, I'm doing my job," says Munoz.

And doing a good job as a judge, isn't the only place where Tommy wants to be successful. In his own life, Tommy has had great triumphs there too.

"I've been happily married for 36 years the 30th of September to my wife, Margaret who's a local girl," says Munoz.

Tommy and Margaret also have two children, Misty and Tommy, Jr. and both have brought the couple a great deal of joy.

Munoz says, "Misty was the first woman to graduate from West Point here, she's a 1999 graduate from Bryan High School."

Since Tommy served his country in the Air Force for 21 years, his daughter's military career fills him with pride.

"The day of graduation she presented me a saber and the inscription on there really got to me the day of graduation because it said, to my daddy, Master Sergeant Retired, Tommy Munoz from 2nd Lt. Misty Munoz. And that really, really hit me, when I talk about it sometimes I want to break down," says Munoz.

By having grown and successful children, one would think that Judge Munoz's household would be empty, but that's not the case at all.

Munoz says, "My dad lives with me, he's 84-year-old and is battling Parkinson's Disease and of course, I try to do the best I can to take care of him because I want to be a good example for my kids."

And being a good example to his own kids and the kids in his court room is a goal Judge Tommy Munoz strives for daily and though not often, there are those unexpected moments when this humble public servant is reminded that what he's doing, really is making a difference and the messages he's sending really are being heard.

Munoz fondly remembers one time when the unexpected happened, "I had a young man, he was one of the students who was here at truancy court. He went into the Army and he came back in uniform. While standing before me in uniform, he wanted to thank me as to what I had done for him. I told him that I didn't do anything and that I just told him what I thought he could do for himself and he took the military career route. That young man said he really appreciated what I had done for him."

And those who work with the judge, they witness firsthand his wisdom, fairness and justice.

Holly Kopetsky, Judge Munoz's court coordinator says, "He has his heart in it. He wants to help the kids, not just punish the kids."

In addition to his job on the bench, Judge Munoz also fells it's important to honor and remember others who've made great contributions to the community. Judge Munoz was instrumental in getting Davila Middle School named for Arthur L. Davila, the first Hispanic member on the Bryan Independent School Board, but his community work doesn’t end there.

Munoz's love of baseball led him to all champion another cause, "I organized a group to let's name a park, a little league park, after Leo Chavarria. After all, he had donated tons of his time and a number of years to Little League West. I'm glad we were able to accomplish that too," says Munoz.

While many people dream of retirement, Judge Munoz says he doesn't even want to think about retiring, but when he does public office he wants to be a senior citizen volunteer and continue to champion causes and continue to help people. Of course, when he retires, Judge Munoz wants to enjoy time with his family who over the years, have had to share him with the people he was elected to serve.

When asked about his career, Munoz says, "We're merely caretakers of this office. There were judges before us and there will be judges after us. But I made it a priority to leave this office in better shape than I found it an I guess in accomplishing that goal, it is my hope I can leave a legacy that has the word honor somewhere in it."

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